JERUSALEM – The 2016 edition of the summer school of the Elijah Interfaith institute brought together over 25 students from 10 countries, Jews and Christians, to study the theme of leadership in world religions. On August 4th, Bishop William Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem, offered a lecture on Christian leadership in general and in particular the leadership of Pope Francis.
Since 1997, the Elijah Interfaith institute has been holding a summer school for local and international students. The summer school tackles topics of interest to religious communities and explores them from the perspectives of multiple religious traditions. The 2016 edition of the summer school brought together over 25 students from 10 countries, Jews and Christians, to study the theme of leadership in world religions. Leadership is central to the healthy functioning of religion, especially at times of transition and globalization. The summer school studied leadership from the perspectives of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. In addition to the core staff, Rabbi Dr. Alon Goshen-Gottstein and Peta Jones-Pellach of the Elijah Institute, an international faculty took part, some by Skype and some in person. Members of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders and the Elijah Interfaith Academy offered classes, engaging the perspectives of multiple religions (see http://elijah-interfaith.org/about-elijah).
Local communities were engaged in the effort, including the local Catholic community. In addition to visits to the Dormition Abbey, Tabgha and Domus Galillae, the program included a lecture on Christian leadership in general and in particular the leadership of Pope Francis, presented by Bishop William Shomali, a long time friend of the Elijah Institute, since the days Elijah offered an introductory course to Judaism at the Latin Patriarchate Seminary, in the late 1990s. Some points suggested by Bishop Shomali are relevant for a broader view of leadership and in particular for religious leadership. A presentation of what makes Pope Francis a successful leaders allows us to consider how leadership can function in all religions. The following points were offered by Bishop Shomali as a way of stating where Pope Francis is a good model of a religious leader:
- Leading by example.
- Patience, such as in advancing reforms in the Church.
- Accessibility to followers, who know their leader is within reach.
- Seeking advice and listening to multiple voices.
- Decentralization, and empowerment of multiple centers to guide and inspire the Church.
- Outreach beyond the Catholic community, thereby making Francis a global religious leader.
- Effective communication, such as the use of social media.
- Willingness to embrace risk.
Leaders are role models for religious communities. Therefore, identifying successful leadership is very often a teaching for the flock. The above list may therefore serve both as a teaching on leadership and an example to apply the same principles in the lives of followers, as appropriate.